First Advisor

William Lang

Date of Publication

Spring 7-3-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Markets -- Oregon -- Portland -- 20th century -- History, Food industry and trade -- Oregon -- Portland -- 20th century -- History, Produce trade -- Oregon -- Portland -- 20th century -- History, Political culture -- Oregon -- Portland -- 20th century -- History, Community development (Urban) -- Oregon -- Portland -- Citizen participation -- 20th century -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 135 pages)


Following the Civil War, the American government greatly expanded the opportunities available for private businessmen and investors in an effort to rapidly colonize the West. This expansion of private commerce led to the second industrial revolution in which railroads and the corporation became the symbols and tools of a rapidly modernizing nation. It was also during this period that the responsibility of food distribution was released from municipal accountability and institutions like public markets began to fade from the American urbanscape. While the proliferation of private grocers greatly aided many metropolises' rapid growth, they did little to secure a sustainable and desirable form of food distribution. During the decades before and after the turn of the century, public market campaigns began to develop in response to the widespread abandonment of municipal food distribution.

Like many western cities, Portland, Oregon matured during the second half of the nineteenth century and lacked the historical and social precedent for the construction of a public market. Between 1851 and 1914, residents of Portland and its agricultural hinterland fought for the construction of a municipally-owned public market rallying against the perceived harmful and growing influences of middlemen. As a result of their efforts, the Carroll Public Market was founded on the curbsides of Yamhill Street in downtown Portland. While success encouraged multiple expansions and an increasingly supportive consumer base, a growing commitment to modernist planning among city officials and the spread of automobile ownership determined the market to be incompatible with the commercial future of Portland.

In an effort to acknowledge and capitalize on the Carroll Public Market's community, a group of investors, incorporated as the Portland Market Company, worked with city officials between 1926 and 1934 to create the largest public market in the United States, the Portland Public Market. As the first building of the newly constructed waterfront development, many believed the massive institution would reinvigorate nearby businesses and ultimately influence the potential of the downtown business district. The Portland Public Market was decidedly distinct from the market along Yamhill and the promoters cast it as such. By utilizing the most modern technologies and promises of convenience there was little that the two organizations shared in common. In the end, the potential of the waterfront market was never fulfilled and amidst legal scandals, an ongoing struggle to meet operating costs, and the success of a rebellious Farmers Cooperative, it shut down after nine years.

This thesis discusses these two public markets during a period of changing consumer interests and the rise of modernist planning in Portland, Oregon. Ultimately, the Carroll Public Market was torn down for reasons beyond its own control despite the comfortable profit it enjoyed each year. Many city officials refused to support the institution as they increasingly supported the values of modernism and urban planning. The Portland Public Market fit perfectly with many city planners' and private investors' intents for the future. This essay seeks to offer a unique glimpse of how commercial communities form and how commercial environments evolve through the politics of food distribution, consumerism, and producer-to-consumer relationships.


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